Vice Regal Chair #1999-1439Senate Chamber, North Wing, Main Floor
A blackwood Vice Regal stately chair with a raised back and stepped top surmounted by a crown and applied acanthus leaf scroll corners; square section pilasters panelled with leaf roundels and carved acanthus leaf cresting flanking a padded back support upholstered in red leather; padded arms with scroll terminals; the square padded seat with carved rounds, on square section legs and block feet; two brass handles fixed to the reverse of the chair behind the arms. The chair is on a dais behind the President’s chair.
The Vice Regal Chair was used by the Governor-General in the Senate Chamber between 1927 and 1988, and remains in the Senate Chamber. The Rt Hon. John Baird, first Baron Stonehaven, was the first person to use it during his term of office which ended in October 1930, and it was not used in 1927 when the Duke of York proclaimed the inauguration of parliamentary proceedings in Canberra—he did not have the constitutional power to open a new session of Parliament. The Vice Regal Chair was used for the ceremonial opening of a parliament by the Governor-General and was also used by Queen Elizabeth II on the three occasions that she opened Parliament, including her first royal visit to Australia in 1954, and later in 1974 and 1977.
The Vice Regal Chair was designed in 1926 by the Architects Department of the Federal Capital Commission, led by principal architect John Smith Murdoch, specifically for Provisional Parliament House. Murdoch’s design for this chair and the other Senate Chamber furniture was inspired by the Westminster system of Parliament. The Throne was manufactured by Beard Watson & Co Ltd, one of the six firms that were contracted to construct Murdoch’s designs. Beard Watson & Co Ltd were renowned in Sydney as a retailer and manufacturer of high class furnishings, initially manufacturing floor coverings and carpets but diversifying into furniture in 1901. A 1917 article in The Australian Manufacturer stated of Beard Watson that ‘the furniture it sells, and particularly the furniture it produces, is distinguished at once for its good workmanship and for its artistic beauty.’